The community bade farewell to Fr Wulstan with a Solemn Requiem Mass celebrated in the Abbey Church. Despite his absence from public life for many years, the church was packed to the doors and a great number of mourners were obliged to stand. Many of his friends travelled great distances to be with us. One oblate of the community crossed the Atlantic for the funeral. Monsieur and Madame Mabin came from France for the day with the abbot’s little God-daughter, Brune, and many personal friends of Fr Wulstan came from all over England. We were pleased to see a number of old friends at the Mass. Two of our former organists, Dr Anthony Noble and Andrew Knowles were present, as were Dr Anthony Geraghty and his father and other members of the former Abbey Choir. A number of those who had tried their vocations with us across the years were present, and we were pleased to catch up with their news.
Our Brother Michael was at one of our monasteries in the United States when Fr Wulstan died and so he flew home for the occasion. Our friends the Praemonstratensians from Chelmsford were represented by their Conventual Prior, Fr Hugh and their Brother Stephen who assisted on the sanctuary. Monastic brethren from other monasteries came to support us, as did Fr Aldo Tapparo, an old friend of ours who is a parish priest in Oxford.
Fr Wulstan’s body was moved to the Abbey Church the evening before the funeral and the coffin was placed in the centre of the sanctuary and choir. On the coffin was placed a stole and the chalice of Fr Benedict Steuart. Fr Benedict was a Farnborough monk who went to be first Prior of Caldey when the community converted to Catholicism. It was under him that Fr Wulstan began his monastic life, during what Fr Wulstan always called ‘the Benedictine’ years.
In a break with our tradition, the organ was used for the Requiem, and in addition to the Chant, the hymn O Thou who Camest from Above was sung with great enthusiasm by all.
Fr Abbot spoke in the course of the day about Fr Wulstan. We will reproduce his notes in the next blog instalment.